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Gregory Clay: Zimmerman jury got it right

  • McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Published Thursday, July 18, 2013, at 12 a.m.

The verdict is in for the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case. What did we learn?

Being a vigilante is a dangerous hobby.

Juvenile bravado can get you killed.

Mark O’Mara is a hell of a defense attorney.

We also learned that the jury had no choice but to vote “not guilty.”

The prosecution didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt; Zimmerman’s defense team was more masterful in presentation, more adept at storytelling and more effective in cross-examination. Three aspects of the defense’s case were in the fore: When Police Detective Chris Serino testified that he found no significant inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s statements to police, as Juror B37 told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night. When O’Mara mounted the life-size test dummy to demonstrate how Martin supposedly bashed Zimmerman’s head against the concrete, as Zimmerman claimed. And the most riveting – when Zimmerman neighbor John Good testified he’d seen a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man “just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style.”

Good’s testimony was earth-shattering. A most tragic case essentially was over after that, based on law.

As Harvard law school professor Alan Dershowitz said on CNN’s “State of the Union With Candy Crowley” on Sunday: “I think this is a fairly traditional case of self-defense. It’s a horrible tragedy. It reflects the racial divide in our society. There is no reason this young man should have been killed. Zimmerman may have been morally at fault for racially profiling and following him, but under the law of self-defense, if he was on bottom and he was having his head banged against the pavement and was in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm, he had the right to respond the way he did.”

That seems logical. Remember, Juror B37 also told Cooper that she believed Martin threw the first punch.

Perhaps Zimmerman’s actions before that confrontation can be viewed through the prism of a syllogism, which usually is based on two connected premises.

In this case, a George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin syllogism could go like this:

Premise A: Different groups of black teens dressing and acting in a certain way recently had been burglarizing apartments and homes in the neighborhood.

Premise B: Trayvon Martin was a black teen dressing and acting in that certain way.

Logical conclusion: Trayvon Martin was a logical source of suspicion.

Instead of racial profiling, perhaps Zimmerman was engaging in racial observation – from a syllogistic view.

There is a difference.

However, there is one issue in this case that’s similar to some of its predecessors to many in the black community: That is, Zimmerman was viewed as an outsider. That’s the source of much of this visceral outrage. If Zimmerman were named “Smith” and black, would there be mass protests nationwide? No way. The facts of life are these: Most black males in this country are killed by other black males within their own communities. Most of the assailants are between the ages of 15 and 34.

Why aren’t the protesters marching about that from San Francisco to New York? If NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous employed even one-tenth of his unbridled passion and energy to black-on-black crime as he has to the Martin-Zimmerman case, perhaps we could accomplish something here. How about a more zealous Ben Jealous in Chicago?

Chicago is America’s new Vietnam. The casualty reports remind one of the 1960s when CBS News’ pre-eminent anchorman Walter Cronkite read the number of daily deaths and wounded from the Vietnam War at the end of his nightly newscasts. And then he would close with his patented mantra: “And that’s the way it is …”

That’s the way it is in the United States these days. There is a certain degree of acceptance of black-on-black homicides. Check out these numbers from the four-day Fourth of July holiday covering July 4-7: According to NBC Chicago, 72 people were shot, with 12 dead. That’s approximately 18 per day, mostly black. The joke in Chicago is “When you combine Chicago with Iraq, what do you get? Chiraq.”

Now back to racial profiling.

Suppose a corporation implemented a racial survey of its key workers. The survey revealed that one important division within the corporation featured no black employees. None. Zero. Then the corporate CEO ordered internal hiring managers to find at least three black people to employ for staff diversification. Is that racial profiling? Or is it diversity? Are they one and the same? Is workplace racial profiling operating under the guise of diversity? Or is the word “diversity” simply a euphemism for racial profiling?

In each case, a certain racial group is being targeted. So what’s the difference?

Another example: Washington, D.C., like New York and Chicago, is a cab city. Taxis traverse the streets all hours, night, day and weekends. A cabdriver once told me that he refused to pick up any black male who appeared to be under the age of 30.

Why is that pivotal to this essay? Because that particular cabdriver was American-born black. He wasn’t African-born black or Middle Eastern, like so many other drivers. This guy was originally from Reidsville, N.C.

Why did he assume this stance? Because the taxi driver claimed he had been robbed multiple times, each time by young black dudes. Is that racial profiling? He is a perfect example in this sense: Anyone who thinks black folks don’t racially profile in this country is delusional.

Was that American-born black cabdriver engaging in racial profiling, or was he simply exercising his right to self-preservation or self-protection?

Let’s not forget that even the Rev. Jesse Jackson admitted to racial profiling. The year was 1993. The reverend shocked the world when he made this statement on stereotyping: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

So, let’s be real: Who’s fooling whom here?

Perhaps ESPN sports broadcaster Stephen A. Smith got it right when, on his television show on Monday, he profoundly advised black males to adjust and adapt. “Take off that hoodie.… There is a responsibility that we have to have,” Smith said. “I’m talking about my community. We have to have a responsibility where everything can’t be about being right. Sometimes it has to be about being smart.… It’s not always about right and wrong. It’s about what the reality of a situation may be and adapting to the circumstances to make sure you don’t find yourself in a world of trouble.”

There’s one other thing: Knee-jerk critics who have compared Trayvon Martin to civil rights martyrs Emmett Till and Medgar Evers are simply disingenuous.

But then we learned many disingenuous aspects about America during this case.

Gregory Clay is assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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